Wednesday, 29 November, 2023

Sri Lankan PM quits, lawmaker among several dead in violence



An aide to the prime minister confirmed that Mahinda Rajapaksa has submitted a letter of resignation to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, as at least five people died and nearly 200 were injured in a day of violence.

After Monday's violence, hundreds of armed soldiers were deployed in the capital, as the protesters accused police of not preventing an attack by pro-government groups.
After Monday’s violence, hundreds of armed soldiers were deployed in the capital, as the protesters accused police of not preventing an attack by pro-government groups. (AFP)

Sri Lankan Prime Minister has resigned and a ruling party lawmaker died in the worst violence since anti-government protesters took to the streets against an unprecedented economic crisis crippling the island nation.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa stepped down on Monday after over a hundred people were wounded when his supporters armed with sticks and clubs attacked protesters demanding his and the president's ouster.

Mahinda Rajapaksa's spokesperson, Rohan Weliwita, said the 76-year-old sent his letter of resignation to his younger brother, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, clearing the way for a "new unity government".

The resignation automatically means the cabinet stands dissolved. The country's largest opposition party had said before it would not join any government helmed by a member of the Rajapaksa clan.

The decision followed a sudden burst of violence involving deadly clashes that left at least five people including a lawmaker dead and more than 189 injured, according to police.

Lawmaker Amarakeerthi Athukorala opened fire and critically wounded two people blocking his car Nittambuwa outside Colombo, one of whom later died of his injuries, police said.

The MP “then took his own life with his revolver,” a police official told AFP by telephone.

READ MORE:Sri Lanka declares state of emergency for second time in five weeks

Violence grips Colombo

In the capital city of Colombo, police fired tear gas and water cannon and declared an immediate curfew, which was later widened to include the entire South Asian island nation of 22 million people.

Officials said the army riot squad was called in to reinforce police. Soldiers have been deployed throughout the crisis to protect deliveries of fuel and other essentials but until now not to prevent confrontations.

The violence began after several thousand supporters of Mahinda Rajapaksa, brought in buses from rural areas, poured out of his nearby official residence and pulled down tents of protesters.

They also attacked unarmed protesters camping outside the president's office at the sea-front Galle Face promenade in downtown Colombo since April 9, according to eyewitnesses.

"Strongly condemn the violent acts taking place by those inciting & participating, irrespective of political allegiances. Violence won't solve the current problems," President Gotabaya Rajapaksa tweeted.

Opposition MP Sajith Premadasa tried to move into the area after the clashes, but he came under attack from a mob and his security staff bundled him into a car and drove off.

The violence was the worst since police shot dead one protestor and wounded 24 others blockading a railway line and a highway between Colombo with the central city of Kandy on April 19.

The country has suffered months of blackouts and dire shortages of food, fuel and medicines in its worst economic crisis since independence, sparking weeks of overwhelmingly peaceful demonstrations.

READ MORE:Cash-strapped Sri Lanka gets World Bank help, awaits IMF decision

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